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FBI informant in Hunter Biden case released in Las Vegas, awaits hearing

Updated February 21, 2024 - 12:30 pm

A federal judge in Las Vegas on Tuesday ordered the release of an FBI informant charged with lying to officials about an alleged multimillion-dollar bribery scheme involving President Joe Biden, his son Hunter and a Ukrainian energy company.

Alexander Smirnov, 43, who was arrested last week at Harry Reid International Airport, will remain under electronic monitoring while he awaits a hearing in California federal court on an indictment charging him with making a false statement to federal agents and creating a false and fictitious record.

In ordering Smirnov’s release, U.S. Magistrate Judge Daniel Albregts told him: “Do not make a mockery of me.”

Prosecutors argued Tuesday that Smirnov was a flight risk with ties to multiple foreign intelligence agencies, including Russia.

“There is a serious risk the defendant will flee and a serious risk the defendant will obstruct justice,” federal prosecutor Leo Wise said.

Albregts said that prosecutors failed to establish that restrictive release conditions would not be enough to ensure Smirnov appears in court. He also denied a request from Wise to delay his decision until prosecutors can appeal in a California federal court.

The judge told Smirnov he must seek employment and will not be allowed to travel outside of Clark County, or go near the Harry Reid International Airport, unless he has a scheduled court hearing in California. Smirnov, who is a dual citizen of the U.S. and Israel, was also ordered to give up both his passports, and cannot request a new Israeli passport, Albregts said.

Smirnov left the courtroom on Tuesday surrounded by a handful of supporters. He hid his face under a hood, wore sunglasses and refused to speak with reporters after Tuesday’s hearing.

Local defense attorneys David Chesnoff and Richard Schonfeld are representing Smirnov.

“We are pleased that he is being released, and we look forward to defending the case,” Chesnoff told reporters following Tuesday’s hearing.

Alexander Smirnov, an an FBI informant charged with lying to officials about an alleged multim ...
Alexander Smirnov, an an FBI informant charged with lying to officials about an alleged multimillion-dollar bribery scheme involving President Joe Biden, his son Hunter and a Ukrainian energy company, in federal court with his attorneys Richard Schonfeld and David Chesnoff. (Wes Rand/Las Vegas Review-Journal)

Prosecutors wrote in court documents that Smirnov had “extensive and extremely recent” contact with officials affiliated with Russian intelligence and that he planned to meet with a Russian official during an international trip he was scheduled to take last week.

Wise told the judge that Smirnov has “demonstrated he can’t be trusted” because he lied to his FBI handler after working with him for 10 years. Prosecutors wrote in court documents that Smirnov and his significant other have access to more than $6 million in shared funds and that Smirnov did not tell officials about one of his accounts with nearly $3 million.

According to the indictment, Smirnov was a confidential human source with the FBI and is accused of falsely stating that executives with the Ukrainian energy company Burisma paid Hunter and Joe Biden $5 million each in 2015 or 2016, when then-Vice President Joe Biden was in office during the Obama administration.

Smirnov also falsely claimed that an executive admitted to hiring Hunter Biden to “protect us, through his dad, from all kinds of problems,” according to a statement from the U.S. Department of Justice.

In court documents, Chesnoff and Schonfeld argued that Smirnov is not a flight risk because he has no criminal history and has ties to the U.S., including relatives who live in the country. Smirnov has lived in Las Vegas for two years and spent 16 years before that living in California, his attorneys said.

“While it is not clear what the government’s evidence consists of at this preliminary stage, it is respectfully submitted that when considered in conjunction with other factors outlined here, the balance weighs in favor of release,” Smirnov’s attorneys wrote in court documents.

Chesnoff and Schonfeld also wrote that the charges are “politically motivated.” Wise questioned the claim during Tuesday’s hearing and pointed out to the judge that he is also a prosecutor in a federal firearms case against Hunter Biden.

The judge told Wise that he was only making a determination of Smirnov’s detention status.

“I have no time for the politics of this case,” Albregts said.

Las Vegas Review-Journal part-time intern Peter S. Levitt also is employed by the law firm that represents Smirnov. He was not involved in the reporting of this story.

Contact Katelyn Newberg at knewberg@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0240. Follow @k_newberg on Twitter.

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